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Photo Credit: Pamela Springsteen
Robert Anthony Plant (born 20 August 1948, West Bromwich, West Midlands, England) is a rock singer most famous for being the lead singer of one of the most influential rock bands of all time, Led Zeppelin. He is known for his powerful style with a wide vocal range that embodied folk/blues passion at its finest. The British musician is known for his interest in world music and especially West African music.
In 1966, Plant left home, left college, left work, and turned professional. By 1967 he had cut 6 sides for CBS,' formed the Band of Joy with John Bonham, and created two crucial working partnerships. The first such partnership was with Terry Reid - the two became friends playing on the progressive music circuit of the mid-60s; the second was with bandleader Alexis Korner, with whom Plant worked as harmonica player and co-vocalist in various Korner ventures, many of which featured pianist Steve Miller and were featured as the opening act for the band Free.
In early '68, Plant's psychedelic dream ran out of steam. Bonham left the Band of Joy to tour with Tim Rose, while Plant continued to work with Korner. Plant's friend Terry Reid recommended Plant to Jimmy Page for a revised Yardbirds line-up, declining the gig himself to pursue what looked to be a promising solo career. Plant in turn recommended Bonham, and with Page's fellow session doyen John Paul Jones on bass, what began life as 'The New Yardbirds" became the creative force known as Led Zeppelin.
A well-read individual, Plant was influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien, which inspired some lyrics on early Zeppelin albums. The passion for diverse musical experiences drove Plant and Page to explore the African continent, specifically Morocco which they both revisited during their reunion album No Quarter in 1994. From blues, to folk, to African tribal music, Plant enjoyed diverse influences.
The band's greatest success came with "Stairway to Heaven", an epic fantasy piece that draws influence from folk, blues, Celtic traditional music and hard rock among other genres. While never released as a single, the song has topped charts as the greatest song of all time on various polls around the world. Even though most of the lyrics of the song were written on the spot and have been spread through bootlegs, various groups have claimed that the song contained satanic messages that can be heard when it is played backwards.
Plant enjoyed great success with the band throughout the 1970s, and at one point during the height of his hubris said to a reporter "I'm a golden haired God". This hubris was cut short when Plant and wife Maureen were seriously injured in a car crash in Rhodes, Greece on August 4, 1975. This halted production of Led Zeppelin's album Presence for a few months while he recovered. Things also took a turn for the worse in 1977, when his oldest son Karac died of a stomach infection. Karac's death later inspired him to write the Led Zeppelin song "All My Love" in tribute. These tragic incidents seemed to foster break-up rumors and rumors that the band was involved with black magic.
Bonham's untimely death in 1980 brought the Led Zeppelin era to a close. Following the band's breakup, Plant pursued a successful solo career distancing himself from past pain by charting a new course with a variety of new band members. Plant would later form a short-lived all-star group, The Honeydrippers, who had a Top Ten hit with a remake of "Sea Of Love".
Plant and Jimmy Page renewed their long-time partnership in '95 for four years in the No Quarter project - a melange of North African, Egyptian, and folk- roots sounds.
Many calls from fans and by band members have led to a few brief Zeppelin reunions, including the historic Live Aid and Atlantic Records Anniversary concerts.
Plant's wide-ranging appetite for non-Western musics - including the music of Morocco, the Adas region, and beyond- met with his lifelong fascination with American West Coast psychedelic rock to form a new collision of styles and colors known as Strange Sensation. Their first album, Dreamland, received great critical acclaim and two Grammy nominations in January 2003.
More recently, Plant has recorded with Afro Celt Sound System and, along with Skin and Justin Adams, traveled to South Sahara, North of Timbuktu in Mali to participate in the 2nd Festival of the Desert, a gathering of African Saharan and assorted soul musicians which included Oumou Sangare, Ali Farka Toure, Tinariwen, and Tartit. This project ultimately became a CD compilation, Festival in the Desert, on the Harmonia Mundi label.
2003 saw the release of the definitive Plant retrospective, Sixty Six to Timbuktu, which included a selection of Plant's solo work, from his first recording date to his appearance in Mali.
In October of 2004, Plant revived his long-dormant Es Paranza label for its first release in many years. May of 2005 saw the release of Plant and the Strange Sensation's album Mighty Rearranger, which featured twelve new original songs. A major year-long tour followed. At the close of 2005, the critically acclaimed Mighty Rearranger received two Grammy nominations in vocal categories.
The following year saw Robert and the band embark on a new adventure with a string of dates across Europe and beyond. A stopover in Sweden in late May saw Robert, along with the other members of Led Zeppelin, receive the prestigious Polar Music Prize. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden presented die award to Led Zeppelin in the presence of other dignitaries with the following words: 'The 2006 Polar Music Prize is awarded to the British group Led Zeppelin, one of the great pioneers of rock. Their playful and experimental music combined with highly eclectic elements has two essential themes: mysticism and primal energy."
In October of 2006 Rounder/Zoe Vision released Plant and the Strange Sensation DVD, a ten-camera High Definition shoot for USA Soundstage productions. This was the first commercial DVD in Robert's career. This continued the critical recognition of the current work of Plant and the Strange Sensation.
2006 closed with the worldwide release of Nine Lives (Rhino), a beautifully designed boxed set containing all of Plant's solo work since '8,1accompanied by outtakes, live cuts, and a DVD with contributions from Tori Amos, Phil Collins, Roger Daltrey, Bobby Gillespie, and Lenny Kravitz, among others.
2007 finds Robert working on album number three with Strange Sensation, leaning again towards the music of the muse - exotic, explosive, and detailed. Along the way he performed with Tinariwen, the Malian Tuareg cooperative who received huge critical acclaim for the Justin Adams produced CD Aman Iman, singing and playing tenor ukelele at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris in April. A summer tour of the eastern Mediterranean with Strange Sensation will run from June through August.
Raising Sand, a new project and partnership with 20-time Grammy Award winning artist Alison Krauss was released in October 2007 on Rounder Records. Their first recorded collaboration. Raising Sand proves a wonder on two counts: first that it happened at all, and, more importantly, that it is as successful and illuminating as it is.
Under the stewardship of producer T-Bone Burnett, Raising Sand spans the intersections of early urban blues, spacious West Texas country, and the unrealized potential of the folk-rock revolution. It is an album that uncovers popular music's elemental roots while sounding effortlessly timeless. It's nearly impossible to tell which songs are a hundred years old or which are contemporary. Krauss and Plant share a maverick spirit that makes Raising Sand sound like one continuous thought, a conversation between two major music talents that goes on for an entire album.
[Biography partially adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia].
Pictures at Eleven (1982)
The Principle of Moments (1983)
The Honeydrippers: Volume One (1984), with Jimmy Page
Shaken 'n' Stirred (1985)
Now and Zen (1988)
Manic Nirvana (1990)
Fate of Nations (1993)
The Wayne's World 2 Soundtrack (1993), only one song
No Quarter (1994), with Jimmy Page
Walking Into Clarksdale (1998), with Jimmy Page
Sixty Six to Timbuktu (2003) Best Of
Mighty Rearranger (2005), with Strange Sensation
Nine Lives (Rhino, 2006)
Raising Sand (Rounder, 2007)